“Chantry, you’ve been awfully quiet.” Beatrice was talking to me. This wasn’t an observation; this was her indirectly telling me it was my turn to talk. Her pen was gripped in her hand and her red frame glasses were angled towards her notebook, waiting for some kind of notable reaction to slip out of my mouth.
“Hi,” I stood up because that’s what you’re supposed to do. “I’m Chantry, I’m fifteen, and I’m feeling pretty good.” That was my contribution of the day. I sat back down and looked at a dust bunny on the carpet.
“I’m so glad to hear that! Now everyone, what do we say to Chantry?”
“We’re here for you, Chantry,” half of the circle mumbled out of sync.
Group was always a downer because almost everyone was either diagnosed with depression, or depressed because they were diagnosed with something else. Lily and Maura both tried to kill themselves and they had scars all over their wrists. They were the kind of girls who would rather hack away at their own skin than hurt a fly, and that’s why they were here, because they were dangers to themselves.
Heather was sitting in a wheelchair. She had a pale deadpanned expression and her cheekbones protruded from her face, all her bones threatening to slice through her skin. “Okay, my turn,” she said. “Yesterday I ate something for all three meals and this morning I had two pieces of toast for breakfast.”
“Way to go!” Maura said.
“I haven’t had to be fed from a tube since last week!”
“I’m so proud of you,” Beatrice said, like Heather was her daughter or something. We said that we were there for her.
“Heather, could you please roll up both of your sleeves,” Bradley said. Bradley had symmetrical OCD.
“Bradley, why don’t you tell us how you’re doing?” Beatrice said.
“Well, it’s been three weeks,” he said, lining up his shoes with the tile. “I still count my footsteps, I still do everything twice, I still spend 20 minutes making my bed… oh and I still run through the same morning routines. I don’t want to “recover”, as they say”- He made air quotes with his fingers- “because I don’t want to live in a word where everything isn’t aligned.”
“Sometimes things don’t align,” Maura said to herself.
“For me, it always does.” No one really liked Bradley. We said that we were there for him.
“Guys,” Rick said. Rick’s destined to be a comic book guy with a ponytail and over-protectiveness for finger prints on collectibles issues. “I’m so happy to say that I’m leaving next week!” Beatrice clapped, accompanied by an octave of a not-so-enthusiastic patter from the group. “My teacher said I was the role-model student of my anger management class.
“I remember the last straw for my parents was the day I stole their credit card and went for a shopping spree at IKEA. And then the next morning I woke up and I wanted to kill myself. And it was like, I didn’t even know why.”
“What I want to know,” Bradley interrupted, ruining Rick’s testimonial. “Is why you take the most drugs in this whole group, but you’re the one leaving.”
“Well, Rick is going to take his pills at home from now on,” Beatrice said.
“Why can’t we do that?” Maura said.
“Because I’ve been here for fourteen months and I’ve improved!” Rick said through gritted teeth.
“And why are you always digging through the garbage cans?” Bradley said.
“I was looking for things to make crafts with.”
“What are you in for?” Lily asked.
“The b word,” Rick muttered.
“Yes, that and a number of other disorders.” As if Beatrice needed to remind him of that. Rick had bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactive and a ton of personality disorders. To be fair, he had been here the longest and he’d probably end up here again. “But Bradley, we are all here for different reasons and we’re all going to recover. So please, don’t bring your peers down. We need to support each other. That’s what we’re here for.” He rolled his eyes at that.
“Thank you Beatrice,” Rick said like he was about to burst into tears any second. “You know, I learned a lot while I was here. Life can be so beautiful if you just dwell on the positives. If you let anything get you down, you won’t even notice all these amazing opportunities. And they’re everywhere. Just remember that, guys.” We said that we were here for him.
A pimply Jewish guy with fuzz cut hair was last to talk. I’d never seen him around here, but he looked familiar. Beatrice introduced him and explained that he was admitted here last night. Then she asked him how he was.
“I'm Daniel and I'm good for the frump pump,” he said, like that was the only way he had ever introduced himself. “I'm surfing on the rain train, I- I.”
“Daniel, are you hearing something?” Beatrice asked after a couple uncomfortable seconds.
“What are you hearing?”
“They’re telling me not to trust you,” he said, rubbing his hands together like he was trying to start a fire. “They say that everything is poisoned.”
“Daniel has schizophrenia,” she said particularly to me, as if I’d get excited to meet someone else with the same disorder as me. I did have schizophrenia, the cancer of nerves. My body was overactive with nerves. But I didn't consider myself schizophrenic anymore. There was no such thing as schizophrenia, there was only mental telepathy.
“Daniel, how do you feel when you hear these voices?” she asked.
“Scared.” We said that we were there for him.
Beatrice did her rounds, telling all of us that she was proud of us and there for us, and telling us to keep up the good work, and then she said it was a shame that we were out of time, and then we finally left.